Afterwards, cooperation breaks down comm barriers

The prevailing cooperative spirit is an opportunity, Education CIO Craig Luigart says, 'to align IT with the strategy of the department.'

Sept. 11 and its aftermath offer opportunities for people in government IT to take advantage of a collaborative spirit and a technological retrenchment, federal and private-sector IT professionals say.

'Most agencies don't look for ways to share information,' said Lorrie Scardino, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn. The new Homeland Security Office throws into high relief the 'need to break down boundaries between the agencies,' she said.

One reason feds have mistrusted outsourcing, Scardino said, is their drive 'to maintain control and authority. Now, what's become as important to them is they don't want to be outside their family; they want to work with their own. It's an emotional reaction within the technical department.'

'I'm much more likely now to lend a hand to a colleague who might need help than to just keep working on my own project,' said John Bartoli, computerized typesetting troubleshooter for the Government Printing Office.

Sept. 11 has been a catalyst, said Craig Luigart, former Navy pilot and current Education Department CIO. The military's discipline and focus in running a mission has been newly in evidence at Education: The prevailing cooperative spirit is an opportunity, he said, 'to bring a business focus to IT management and align IT with the strategy of the department.'

'The government has been deficient in quantifying its performance because it hasn't had to,' Scardino said. At the executive levels of government, there's a push to use commercial best practices, 'but the GS-14s are saying that won't work.'

Closing the disconnect between senior management and IT managers is crucial for government IT, she said. And for that, IT managers need to move from the business of delivering technology to the business of managing multiple sources that deliver technology services to the government, she said. Functions such as strategic planning, strategic sourcing, relationship management and service level management are vital.

Unity for critical missions

'We're seeing more of the business leadership fully engaged across the organization,' Luigart said. The current environment lends itself to cooperation in sustaining use of best practices and increased focus on mission, he said.

In Dallas, CIO Dan McFarland said his staff has a heightened sense of the urgency of their mission.

'But I also have a heightened sense of the need to develop compatibility in radio systems for police, fire and emergency services,' he said. New York City officials said that lack hampered coordination of rescue efforts among agencies.

'One of the most appalling stories of the Sept. 11 investigation was the organizational difficulty law enforcement agencies had in communicating with one another,' agreed John Kost, a Gartner analyst.

The drive to make IT compatible across jurisdictions will be led by law enforcement, Kost said. 'As the organizational barriers in law enforcement come down, it will be a guiding path for other levels of government.'

Ensuring communications compatibility 'means we have to do a lot of strategic planning,' McFarland said.

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